Right when Mad Men finally becomes unbearable, they give me one of the best lesbian characters I’ve seen on television in at least 10 years.
Gay characters on television is no longer scandalous. Growing up bisexual in the 90s, Ellen coming out was a huge production, and I never could have imagined Will and Grace. Let alone the LOGO channel. So that's all great, but I must gripe, I miss some of the more sad and deranged characters the TV gave me back when they really, really hated queers and dykes.
Yep. Give me the oppressed gay character any day of the weak. Down trodden, secretive, deranged with shame and lust. That’s the character I relate to.
And so Mad Men brings us Joyce Ramsey, played by Zosia Mamet (daughter of David Mamet!). With oversized jackets and an excited swagger she does a perfect job of showing the tragedy of the charming queergirl who wants desperately to be seen as masculine in a world where even most men never get the privelege.
I was far too excited to see the off kilter lesbian character again. And so I decided to think back on my guilty pleasures of favorite lesbian characters. And here they are.
Lost and Delirious – Piper Perabo as Pauline
On one hand she shows how undeniably charismatic a manly woman can be, on the other, how crazy a broken heart can make a teenager when you throw in a little shame and a whole lot of social ostracizing. But hey, if there is a way for lesbian relationships to end in a pre-Queer-as-Folk high school that doesn’t make the rejected party want to delve into forrest life, cross dressing, and general screaming antics then frankly I did it all wrong.
But I’m a Cheerleader – Clea DuVall as Graham
The only thing hotter than the repression and angst in this movie was the idea that I like Graham could get a girly girl to do a sexy bounceabout for me in a cheerleading uniform. I couldn’t. I can’t. It’s not going to happen. I just don’t bring it out in them.
West Side Story – Susan Oakes as Anybody
The plight of this androgynous side character, rejected and ultimately ignored, broke my heart as a kid. If she doesn’t break yours you’ve obviously never felt left out of anything and frankly I don’t like that about you.
Capote – Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee
Thank you Catherine for finally cluing me in to why this author would name a female character something like Scout.
Big Love – Tina Majorino as Heather Tuttle
This little actress truly knows how to make the longing look of unrequited love. I just want to take her out to the strip club, buy her something nice.
Notes on a Scandal – Judy Dench as Barbara Corvett.
Does this movie paint lesbians as crazed, manipulative, selfish, borderline, sex crazed loons? Absolutely. But damn did that dame do a good job.
The Rachel Maddow Show – Rachel Maddow
Alright, so she’s not really a character. Nor is she at all tragic or secretive. But come on. She’s adorable.
Heavenly Creatures – Kate Winslet as Juliet Hulme
She has it all; the tragically misplaced teen angst, the kind of horribly awkward incidentally role playing sex that you can only have in high school, the rageful possessiveness over her shy and odd looking “girlfriend”, and best of all, tuberculosis. As she puts it, “All the best people have blood and bone diseases. It’s all frightfully romantic.”
Ah, I sometimes miss the mess that women made me.